The One Where I Stopped Using Amazon

I, like many of you, am an avid Amazon.com shopper.  I would be willing to bet that I buy a few physical things from Amazon every month, and plenty of virtual goods, like music, books, etc. as well.

In mid-February, I actually ordered 4 different things in four different orders, on the same day.  Normally, I just use my credit card.  For whatever reason, this day I decided to use an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) from my ING Direct bank account #0002938475*.

As it turns out, I had a typo when I entered the bank account information.  Nonetheless, Amazon allowed me to enter the information, make my four purchases, and receive merchandise two days later thanks to Travis Smith and his shared Amazon Prime subscription.

Ten days after my purchases has already arrived (and been given as gifts to my daughter, mind you), I received four letters in the mail from a company called TRS Recovery Services.

[Mind you, TRS stands for TeleCheck Recovery Services, which means the name of this organization is TeleCheck Recovery Services Recovery Services.]

Each of these letters indicated that my “electronic bank account payment [I] attempted as part of my recent order was not successful.”  Each letter represented one of the 4 orders I had placed that day, and each one came with its own $25 returned check fee, totaling $100 for those of you unwilling to do the math.

I frantically called Amazon to determine what could have happened.  They told me that TRS gets involved on faulty and fraudulent EFT issues, and that was probably what had happened, and that I should call them to resolve it.  So I did.  They explained that the bank account I had attempted to use for my purchases was closed, and that they were not able to get the funds for the orders I had submitted.  I asked them for the account number in question, and that’s when we determined I had made a typo.

The woman on the phone told me that I have a right to dispute the fees, but that they are rarely waived, but that unless I could produce proof that I had paid for these items, she was going to need me to settle up on the phone immediately.  Since I had checked my account, and knew that technically I had not paid for these items, I complied, and paid the balance of my items, less the $100 in service fees.  I told her I would like to dispute those, as I received no warning from Amazon that there was a problem. 

In order to dispute these charges, I have two options:  fax or mail a letter to a physical address with my reference numbers and a “personal statement.”

It gets even better.  While I was on the phone with TRS, but after I had given them my credit card information, I received an email from Amazon stating:

“At this time, we have requested that TRS Recovery Services cease any further collection action for the previous order(s) placed using your bank account.”

I’ve tried the dance of customer service with both Amazon and TRS, to no avail.

I faxed the letter this morning.  I will keep you posted.

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Discussion Questions

  1. Amazon took my order with a typo, processed the order, and shipped me my items without a single warning or problem.  Shouldn’t I, as the consumer, be warned about a typo before I’m expected to pay a $25 service fee?
  2. In 2012, we still have companies that only accept fax or snail mail?  This smells of scam every time I encounter it.  Consumer Protection should specifically eliminate business practices that explicitly make it harder for the consumer.
  3. The title of this article is “The One Where I Stopped Using Amazon.”  That’s a bold-faced lie meant to draw you into the story.  If it would have fit, I probably should have titled it “The One Where I Stopped Using EFTs With Amazon.”  My apologies for being misleading.  They have the best prices on nearly everything.  I have no intention of quitting Amazon for good.  Does that make me a bad person?  Would you?
  4. How would you have handled this situation?

 

 

* Account number has been changed to protect the innocent.

12 thoughts on “The One Where I Stopped Using Amazon

  1. I have had a similar experience with Amazon customer service which is that it is great – until it is not. There are special situations, like the one you hit, where you fall into this hole and there is really no way out. When repeated email exchanges with customer service do not solve your issue you are pretty much left in the dark.

    In your particular case – I completely agree with you here. There is no way that a simple typo mistake should cost you $100.

  2. Better Business Bearau

  3. In this case, though, how was Amazon to know that your “typo” was a typo? With it being an account number, Amazon is at the liberty of the payment provider to kick back an error code at the time of purchase.

    It’s a crappy situation all the same. But I’m not entirely convinced that it’s Amazon’s fault.

  4. I have to say that I can relate to this. I recently made a purchase with Amazon a month ago, but I had transposed a couple numbers in my mailing address. I felt like a moron, and Amazon has no way of knowing the address is correct. My whole experience revolved around the delivery service and how they don’t notify customers of non-delivered items. I signed up for text alert when delivered. When I returned home and realized my error, I double checked and the address I indicated in error didn’t even exist. So how do you explain the delivery notification? So I returned to the Amazon website and tried to locate the delivery service, which is some service I have never heard of, called them and explained the issue. She put me on hold and claimed she left a message with the driver and would need to call me back. She never called back and I then escalated my request with amazon with sending an email. I eventually was refunded and received my shipment, but I had to reorder the items and tell them the new order number. My original shipment was returned to Amazon and technically never delivered to anyone. So be wary of those rinky dink places they use for delivery service. They have little or no customer service.

  5. I’ve only ever used credit cards to conduct transactions with e-commerce sites. I feel that’s a safer way to conduct business, since I can contest charges if something happens. It’s scary that someone could randomly enter an account number for a bank account and get a purchase on my account.

  6. i would use a credit card next time and always.

  7. I think for all the evils of credit cards and the card processing industry (Full Disclosure: I work in it), one thing they have exactly right over many other financial transfer vehicles is the idea of being able to authorize a transaction quickly and accurately. “Can this account pay for this” is a question that other systems (EFT, Check, etc) often cannot answer.

    Know why Paypal does those $0.02 transactions to your account when you link a bank account? And why it can take DAYS for those to come through? It’s the only way to know that the account actually exists… and even then they don’t KNOW it’s yours… you have to re-type those amounts to prove it.

    One of the smartest things banks ever did was to piggy back debit cards on top of the existing credit card network. In many (if not all) ways, it’s the most modern money transfer vehicle out there… even if you dislike the idea of “credit”. There’s a reason the vendors are willing to pay the processing fees to use the network… bounced checks are no longer their problem and cash handling is risky and expensive in its own ways.

    P.S.: Opinions expressed are mine, my company probably thinks I’m insane… blah blah blah…

  8. I think this is almost a side effect of Prime. If you weren’t expecting it in 2 days, they could have waited for payment confirmation before shipping.

    Which begs the question, why the hell are banks so slow? EFT should be a pretty snappy process. Hell, couldn’t you stand up a web service on at the bank that checks to see if it exists and is open and has funds? Surely, not every local credit union could do that, but you said your bank was ING. I’d think they could manage that.

    As with most things, it comes back to incentives. Amazon is incentivized to ship quickly with a minimal, best-effort processing to make their 2-day service agreement. TRS is incentivized to extract payment immediately before you resolve the issue with the vendor. TRS is also incentivized to offer very bad options for contesting fees, since it can only negatively affect their revenue. You aren’t their customer, so they can’t lose your business by providing bad service. I haven’t read the Consumer Protection law to see if any of this is relevant, but I somehow doubt it (almost certain that inconvenient modes of communication are not addressed, though).

    However, I’m not sure what motivated Amazon to kick that over to collections so rapidly.

    So, my question back to you: How do you incentivize companies to behave nicely in this scenario?

  9. Also, what if you happened to typo _my_ account number instead of some random one that’s closed/does not exist? Do they just happily take my money for your transaction? Would the onus be on me to notice the strange charge and get my back to do an investigation?

    Man, if a typo gets federal investigators (if it’s across state lines, I think they have to step in) knocking on your door, we need to take a long, hard look at this broke-ass system.

  10. 1. Unless the payment method has the ability to verify the accuracy of the account then they really can’t warn you of a typo. I’d definately steer clear of using that payment type.

    2. There should be a way to deal with correspondance with the company other than fax and snail mail; however, when dealing with bank routing and account numbers I would NEVER email those, so maybe this is their way of ensuring that details like that don’t end up in their email system?

    3. I fell for it.

    4. Denial, anger, depression, acceptance … then called and complained like you did.

  11. I think the bigger issue here is why you haven’t added your last name and street name to your spell check dictionary.

  12. Off topic a bit, but I can’t get over how people still use fax.

    “In 2012, we still have companies that only accept fax or snail mail? This smells of scam every time I encounter it. Consumer Protection should specifically eliminate business practices that explicitly make it harder for the consumer.”

    This reminds me about how hard it was for me to create an apple developer account. Had to fax documents in to apple and 3 days later they call me back saying this is not the document, blah blah. So I had to fax and repeat this process for 2 months to get an apple developer account. To top it off, I don’t have a fax machine so I had to go find someones to use for this whole process. I am still bitter.

    Amazon should use a different service for this. One that does not use fax and letters. I bet it would not be hard to find some service other then TRS that can preform this service for amazon a lower cost if they were a bit more automated.

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